Tips for Nano Success

•December 3, 2013 • 1 Comment

2013-Winner-Vertical-BannerAs someone who is now a four-time NaNoWriMo winner, I thought I should pass along some tips and tricks for others who might like to emulate my success.  My primary piece of wisdom from this year is that an ugly win is still a win.  In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in my smooth, workmanlike approach to nano, and the wonderful graphs that come out of it:
















Sadly, due to a bit of a personal crisis right at the end of the month, 2013’s progress looked like this:










My personal problems are writ throughout that last bit of the graph, where it gets all wobbly.  But I won, and  am now the proud possessor of an amorphous word-blob of approximately 50,000 units, which with a bunch of rewrites and maybe another 40,000 words, may be a book someday.  So how did I do it?  A few tips:

1. Visualize success.  If you believe you’ll reach 50,000 words, you will!

2. Sentences like “Man, this scene went off the rails.  Fix it later, if possible.  I suck.” count toward the 50k

3. So do long, rambling half-assed outlines of where the plot is going that stretch on for several pages, in a pinch

Does Subway Know What They Are Synergistically Leveraging?

•November 12, 2013 • Comments Off on Does Subway Know What They Are Synergistically Leveraging?

Hunger Games 1I had this whole post started about Subway’s new “Hunger Games: Where Victors Eat” tie-in because, you know, is the board of Subway aware of what, exactly, it means to be a victor in the Hunger Games?  I mean, first of all, there is only one victor per year (other than that one year, of course), which is kind of a small market for a chain like Subway.  Of course, I guess the victors are kept around living in style in special houses, so maybe Subway is positing that they would be like the “official sandwich” of those people in the fictional universe, and they’d keep the mentors well-supplied with food while they trained the new contestants and all?

But the other problem is that, you know, it turns out these victors don’t have a great life, really, despite the luxurious house and all the BMTs they can eat.  Personally, I’m intrigued by the idea of psychologically-damaged former winners of the Hunger Games huddled in opulent houses, littered in Subway wrappers as they watch the starving, beaten-down populous shamble by outside, hating themselves and wishing they’d just lost to escape this hell even as they dread the call summoning them to the next publicity appearance or forced assignation with some member of society’s elite.  But I’m not sure why the folks at Doctor’s Associates wants that image.

Anyway, the folks over at IO9 kind of pointed out some other issues with the tie-in, so I’m not the only one who thinks this is odd.

That said, if anyone from Subway is reading this, get in touch – I have some great ideas for tie-ins with The Road.

Lit’ra’cha, Again

•November 6, 2013 • Comments Off on Lit’ra’cha, Again

literatureLike me, you were no doubt all a-glow about the recent study that everyone is going on about, showing people that read (specifically “literary fiction”) are much more empathetic that those poor sods who don’t.  And of course, you assumed that, being a study and all, the scientific method was followed top to bottom, everything careful and objective.

Well, I hate to break the news to you, but let’s face it, you were being naive.




If Only He’d Lived Long Enough to Improve

•October 29, 2013 • Comments Off on If Only He’d Lived Long Enough to Improve

sunalsorisesAs is my wont with SMBC, I present this without comment.

Relative Sizes

•October 24, 2013 • Comments Off on Relative Sizes

It is well-known that sci-fi writers need to really get their ducks in a row, verisimilitude-wise, because sci-fi readers won’t put up with a lot of nonsense and lack of realism.  I mean, other than the lack of realism that is supposed to be there, of course.  But woe betide the writer who spins a crazy yarn about faster than light travel but includes a spaceship with six hovercraft in its hold when it is described as having only forty cubic meters of cargo space.  Readers hate that.

Of course, sci-fi is also constantly building on itself, so every new book doesn’t need to spend hundreds of pages rehashing the notion of wormholes and whatnot.  With that in mind, this comparison chart of various starships in science fiction could come in handy.  Or, if spaceships aren’t your thing, at least make sure you keep your sandworms straight.


Wait, Does This Make My Miracleman Collection More or Less Valuable?

•October 17, 2013 • 2 Comments

miraclemanCollecting issues of Miracleman was one of the smart things I did in the late 80’s/early 90’s (I think there were like two other smart things I did then, though I’m having difficulty calling them to mind) – it stands in stark contrast to, for example, collecting issues of Secret Wars II (I mean, what…why?)

But I digress – ya’ll didn’t come here to hear about my comic book collection and how much money I could make selling it off (about 6 bucks for Miracleman #1 and about $3.80 for Secret Wars II #1, for some reason).   The reason I go into all this is to lead into the fact that the great Neil Gaiman will finally be wrapping up the Miracleman story he started back in issue 23, after Marvel re-releases the original run starting this January (good luck getting six smackers for one of those reprints, suckers!)

A chance for a wider audience for something arguably better than Watchmen is, of course, great news, and it is only made better by a press release from Marvel that goes through heroic gymnastics to avoid mentioning that, like Watchmen, Miracleman was (up to issue 16* anyway), written by Alan Moore.  It is comforting to know that Alan Moore is as beloved by comics executives as ever.

* Correction: I originally said issue 23, because I hadn’t bothered to haul out my “M” shortbox

Open Letters

•October 15, 2013 • 2 Comments

openLetter2No time for a proper post, so I’ll simply link to the latest of a veritable flurry of open letters directed at Miley Cyrus, this one addressing the most important of her latest round of  tragic mistakes.



Captain Underpants Versus the Invisible Man

•October 8, 2013 • Comments Off on Captain Underpants Versus the Invisible Man

captainUnderpantsContinuing my fine tradition of being a day late and a dollar short, let’s talk about banned books week.  I was struck, during this past incarnation of that week, by challenges two rather different books: The Invisible Man and Captain Underpants.  It’s kind of hard to say which is sillier, all things considered.  Obviously, trying to ban a classic of American literature is the more egregious offense (to the point where the school board that did it was quickly embarrassed into reversing themselves), but the Captain Underpants thing is pretty comical, you have to admit.

Granted, while the stats on the various Captain Underpants books show that it is challenged a lot, it is difficult to say how many school boards and so on actually go through with banning it.  I only wish, though, that the people who challenge it needed to explain, in a public forum, exactly which bits require such drastic action, rather than just writing an incoherent letter or two, because that way we’d get some entertainment out of it.  It would be even better to see that for Fifty Shades of Grey, which may not be challenged as often as the Underpants series, but may represent an even more ridiculous act, as the folks trying to ban it are attempting to stop adults from taking a gander.


A Man Named Fudge

•October 3, 2013 • Comments Off on A Man Named Fudge

fudgeNo, this isn’t a post about the strange cognitive feel brought into the Harry Potter books by having a character named “Cornelius Fudge”, which fit right into the sort of jolly, light-hearted feel of the first few books but which seemed increasingly strange as the books got darker and the character himself changed from benignly semi-competent to personifying the banality of evil.  But that has always bugged me, so maybe I’ll post about it later (see also: Dumbledore).

Anyway, this man called Fudge is a real person, who used to work at a Coldstone Creamery, and who was recently caught stealing delicious treats from his old workplace.  So clearly, what we’ve got here is a larger point about the destiny of names.  And of the difference between fantasy and reality.  It is all fine and well for JK Rowling to name a character “Cornelius Fudge” and make him a collaborator with a murderous, genocidal lunatic of great power.  But here in the real world, if someone with a name like that goes bad he’ll likely end up stealing desserts.

There’s a lesson here, both for parents thinking of names for their children (granted in this case “Fudge” was a last name, but they could have changed it before having kids.  And don’t get me started about the people, immortalized on a tombstone I used to walk by frequently with the last name “Burger” who named their unfortunate child “Hammond”), but also for authors.  The handy thing about being an author is that we can pick names willy-nilly, without being constrained by wanting to honor great-aunt Ethel or being saddled with boring family names.  So we can choose names appropriate to the setting and feel of the plot.  So take care to avoid the tragic mistake of JK Rowling, lest you be condemned to struggle along like her in the literary world.


The Latest Literary Kerfluffle

•October 1, 2013 • Comments Off on The Latest Literary Kerfluffle

CanadianBookThe sort of literary types who frequent this blog have no doubt already heard about David Gilmour, novelist and lecturer at the University of Toronto, putting his foot in it in an interview with Hazlitt.  Now, it is rather upsetting that he would so casually dismiss a large group of writers as unworthy of his attention, if you happen to care about his opinion.  The worst thing about his saying “I haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach” is that Canadians, as a group are too nice to kick up much of a fuss about being so denigrated.

Of course, he said pretty much the same thing about female authors, and they, as a group, are less polite and easy-going (female Canadians being a special case).  That’s less shocking than the Canadian thing, of course, since women authors get dumped on all the time.  It would be nice if certain male authors/critics/literature professors would realize that if they are trying to burnish their tough-guy, manly credentials by pointing out their preferences in literature they’ve already lost the game.  Which is fine, because let’s face it, it’s a stupid game, but they should be aware that they aren’t impressing any firefighters or smoke jumpers or what have you.

There are also even more women than there are Canadians (in fact, more than half of Canadians are women, as it turns out), so one does begin to suspect that if he can’t find a good female author he may be working a bit to remain ignorant.  Which is too bad, considering his occupation.